Feel free to become indignant. I certainly am. The idea of butchers being elusive in Chicago is preposterous, but only in theory. The fact of our reality in the Windy City is quite the contrary. We just couldn’t find a good butcher in what is an enormously carnivorous town with a large immigrant population and strong sense of historical continuity. Stubborn and industrious as we are, we’ve cobbled together a means of meeting our flesh cravings. Poultry and ground meat from Windy City. Kielbasa, lunch meat, bacon and odd cuts such as pork belly from Wally’s. Italian sausage from D&D Finer Foods. Spendy cuts like ribeye, lamb chops and lamb leg, as well as high-falootin’ Andouille from the dreaded Whole Foods (a.k.a. Hippy Mart). The Logan Square farmers market yielded a good score for goat over the summer. Nonetheless, it was an absolutely decentralized manner of grocery shopping, since none of these places, except Windy City, sell quality produce for less than a quarter’s tuition at Northwestern. Don’t even mention sundries like paper towels. We also refuse to shop at larger chains like Dominick’s and Jewel because they just suck and we’re both a touch agoraphobic. Then we ran into an old friend of Jeff’s at the Devotchka show. He and his lovely lady friend offered us a ride home. We talked leg of lamb on the way. In sharing our stories, sources were revealed.

“Whole Foods?!” M said from the front seat. “Nah man, don’t go there. Paulina Meat Market is great. You have to take a number from the pig nose though. You won’t get helped without a number.”

During an early morning lull at work the next day, I researched the location. As it turns out, Paulina Meat Market offers everything that an old school butcher should right down to game and offal. (Mom, I found sweetbreads! and tongue! and pate! and brunschwager! and mergeuz!) It’s a mere 20 minute jaunt by bus and, if we walk a few blocks, we can catch another directly to Windy City for our weekly veg. Since this was our first time there, we purchased some “litmus tests” – a whole fryer, two ribeye steaks, two lamb shoulder chops, sweet Italian sausage, Andouille, Easter Polish sausage and some duck liver pate. (Yes, I spent the same amount on meat as I did to update my spring wardrobe. We’re in a very fortunate position right now.) So far, the trip has been well worth it. The pate is nearly gone and Jeff was gushing over “the beautiful gore” leaking from the aged steaks. As for the location itself, it was lovely. There is plenty of room to accommodate what turned out to be a bustling crowd. They offered samples by the front door in the event you show up hungry. The meatmen are great too – all of them old-timers or career butchers instead of the random Whole Foods punk who ends up learning about meat because he got stuck in that department. The best thing was that they’re happy to talk to you. We chatted nostalgically about how whole chickens no longer come with innards. Leonard expertly advised us on the ostentatious Tomahawk chop since neither of us had encountered one before. (It’s the same kind of meat as a ribeye, just with the bone on and not cut into smaller pieces. Sear it quickly on the grill or broiler. It’s not for those who like their steak above rare since the time it would take to cook this monster would otherwise destroy it.) We’re totally getting one next time around. In the meantime, I will post throughout the week as we cook each thing. I have a feeling our grocery shopping just got a lot easier.

Advertisements